Bill Clinton: Romney’s refusal to share tax plan specifics a ‘red flag’

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Former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday hammered Mitt Romney over the Republican candidate's refusal to say which deductions and loopholes he would eliminate as part of his tax reform plan.

"His proposal for dealing with the debt is first to make it bigger by adopting another round of tax cuts that with the interest associated it would be about $5 trillion more over a decade, and we know how he says he wants to eliminate that, not by raising taxes, but by eliminating preferences in the tax code," Clinton said during an interview with CBS News. "But he says he can do that without raising taxes on the middle class. I'm not sure that's possible. But he wants to defer, until after the election, saying what the specifics are. I think that ought to be a little bit of a red flag."

Romney's tax reform proposal pledges to both lower tax rates and remain deficit-neutral.


Clinton, speaking ahead of the kickoff of his annual Clinton Global Initiative — an event that Romney will address Tuesday morning — said that for the numbers to add up, Romney would be forced to reduce popular deductions that benefit the middle class, effectively increasing their rates.

"Under Gov. Romney's plan, I pay well over 20 percent now, so if you eliminate the mortgage tax deduction and the charitable tax deduction, I'll still be ahead," Clinton said. "So to do it, you have to go down and raise — and cut the deductions enough that you wind up raising taxes on people in the middle-income group. That's the problem."

The Romney campaign pushed back against Clinton in a statement later Tuesday.

“The only person running for president who has raised taxes on the middle class is Barack Obama," said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams. "Mitt Romney understands that the last thing we should do during a recession is to punish working families and small-business owners with job-killing tax hikes. Gov. Romney has a plan to get our economy back on track that will reform our tax code, cut the deficit, create 12 million new jobs and undo the damage caused by President Obama’s failed economic policies.” 

Clinton went on to predict that after the election, some of the inaction that has gripped Washington would likely be resolved.

"I think the president's going to win, but let's assume Gov. Romney won," Clinton said. "If he wins, that almost certainly means the Republicans will hold on to the House and it will be about 50/50 in the Senate, more or less the way it is now."

But Clinton also sees progress if Obama prevails.

"Their No. 1 goal the last four years has been denying him a second term. As soon as he gets that, they can't deny him a third term; he can't have one anyway," Clinton said.

That led the former president to predict that Congress would avoid the fiscal cliff.

"They'll either make a deal or they'll have a short extension, which makes it clear this is not another year, this is not going to fool around," Clinton said. "I predict that you will get a budget deal early next year, if not in a lame-duck session. And I think you'll start to see them work together. It's going to be a different world."

The former president also defended President Obama on foreign policy, calling Romney's criticism of Obama's handling of the Middle East "inherently ridiculous."

And Clinton chided the response in the Muslim world to the anti-Islam film that had originally been credited with sparking some of the violent protests at U.S. diplomatic missions.

"You've got to be able to say, if you believe in Islam, that 'I believe in a God and a prophet strong enough to withstand the criticisms of petty, narrow-minded, mean-spirited people. I believe that the cultural crassness I abhor will in the end fall before the values that I exult.' "